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Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) capture genetic vulnerability to psychiatric conditions. However, PRSs are often associated with multiple mental health problems in children, complicating their use in research and clinical practice. The current study is the first to systematically test which PRSs associate broadly with all forms of childhood psychopathology, and which PRSs are more specific to one or a handful of forms of psychopathology.
The sample consisted of 4717 unrelated children (mean age = 9.92, s.d. = 0.62; 47.1% female; all European ancestry). Psychopathology was conceptualized hierarchically as empirically derived general factor (p-factor) and five specific factors: externalizing, internalizing, neurodevelopmental, somatoform, and detachment. Partial correlations explored associations between psychopathology factors and 22 psychopathology-related PRSs. Regressions tested which level of the psychopathology hierarchy was most strongly associated with each PRS.
Thirteen PRSs were significantly associated with the general factor, most prominently Chronic Multisite Pain-PRS (r = 0.098), ADHD-PRS (r = 0.079), and Depression-PRS (r = 0.078). After adjusting for the general factor, Depression-PRS, Neuroticism-PRS, PTSD-PRS, Insomnia-PRS, Chronic Back Pain-PRS, and Autism-PRS were not associated with lower order factors. Conversely, several externalizing PRSs, including Adventurousness-PRS and Disinhibition-PRS, remained associated with the externalizing factor (|r| = 0.040–0.058). The ADHD-PRS remained uniquely associated with the neurodevelopmental factor (r = 062).
PRSs developed to predict vulnerability to emotional difficulties and chronic pain generally captured genetic risk for all forms of childhood psychopathology. PRSs developed to predict vulnerability to externalizing difficulties, e.g. disinhibition, tended to be more specific in predicting behavioral problems. The results may inform translation of existing PRSs to pediatric research and future clinical practice.
The degree to which suicide risk aggregates in US families is unknown. The authors aimed to determine the familial risk of suicide in Utah, and tested whether familial risk varies based on the characteristics of the suicides and their relatives.
A population-based sample of 12 160 suicides from 1904 to 2014 were identified from the Utah Population Database and matched 1:5 to controls based on sex and age using at-risk sampling. All first through third- and fifth-degree relatives of suicide probands and controls were identified (N = 13 480 122). The familial risk of suicide was estimated based on hazard ratios (HR) from an unsupervised Cox regression model in a unified framework. Moderation by sex of the proband or relative and age of the proband at time of suicide (<25 v. ⩾25 years) was examined.
Significantly elevated HRs were observed in first- (HR 3.45; 95% CI 3.12–3.82) through fifth-degree relatives (HR 1.07; 95% CI 1.02–1.12) of suicide probands. Among first-degree relatives of female suicide probands, the HR of suicide was 6.99 (95% CI 3.99–12.25) in mothers, 6.39 in sisters (95% CI 3.78–10.82), and 5.65 (95% CI 3.38–9.44) in daughters. The HR in first-degree relatives of suicide probands under 25 years at death was 4.29 (95% CI 3.49–5.26).
Elevated familial suicide risk in relatives of female and younger suicide probands suggests that there are unique risk groups to which prevention efforts should be directed – namely suicidal young adults and women with a strong family history of suicide.
Suicidal ideation, suicide attempt (SA) and suicide are significantly heritable phenotypes. However, the extent to which these phenotypes share genetic architecture is unclear. This question is of great relevance to determining key risk factors for suicide, and to alleviate the societal burden of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs). To help address the question of heterogeneity, consortia efforts have recently shifted from a focus on suicide within the context of major psychopathology (e.g. major depressive disorder, schizophrenia) to suicide as an independent entity. Recent molecular studies of suicide risk by members of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium and the International Suicide Genetics Consortium have identified genome-wide significant loci associated with SA and with suicide death, and have examined these phenotypes within and outside of the context of major psychopathology. This review summarizes important insights from epidemiological and biometrical research on suicide, and discusses key empirical findings from molecular genetic examinations of STBs. Polygenic risk scores for these phenotypes have been observed to be associated with case−control status and other risk phenotypes. In addition, estimated shared genetic covariance with other phenotypes suggests specific medical and psychiatric risks beyond major depressive disorder. Broadly, molecular studies suggest a complexity of suicide etiology that cannot simply be accounted for by depression. Discussion of the state of suicide genetics, a growing field, also includes important ethical and clinical implications of studying the genetic risk of suicide.
Genetics hold promise of predicting long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) outcomes following trauma. The aim of the current study was to test whether six hypothesized polygenic risk scores (PRSs) developed to capture genetic vulnerability to psychiatric conditions prospectively predict PTSD onset, severity, and 18-year course after trauma exposure.
Participants were 1490 responders to the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster (mean age at 9/11 = 38.81 years, s.d. = 8.20; 93.5% male; 23.8% lifetime WTC-related PTSD diagnosis). Prospective longitudinal data on WTC-related PTSD symptoms were obtained from electronic medical records and modelled as PTSD trajectories using growth mixture model analysis. Independent regression models tested whether six hypothesized psychiatric PRSs (PTSD-PRS, Re-experiencing-PRS, Generalized Anxiety-PRS, Schizophrenia-PRS, Depression-PRS, and Neuroticism-PRS) are predictive of WTC-PTSD outcomes: lifetime diagnoses, average symptom severity, and 18-year symptom trajectory. All analyses were adjusted for population stratification, 9/11 exposure severity, and multiple testing.
Depression-PRS predicted PTSD diagnostic status (OR 1.37, CI 1.17–1.61, adjusted p = 0.001). All PRSs, except PTSD-PRS, significantly predicted average PTSD symptoms (β = 0.06–0.10, adjusted p < 0.05). Re-experiencing-PRS, Generalized Anxiety-PRS and Schizophrenia-PRS predicted the high severity PTSD trajectory class (ORs 1.21–1.28, adjusted p < 0.05). Finally, PRSs prediction was independent of 9/11 exposure severity and jointly accounted for 3.7 times more variance in PTSD symptoms than the exposure severity.
Psychiatric PRSs prospectively predicted WTC-related PTSD lifetime diagnosis, average symptom severity, and 18-year trajectory in responders to 9/11 disaster. Jointly, PRSs were more predictive of subsequent PTSD than the exposure severity. In the future, PRSs may help identify at-risk responders who might benefit from targeted prevention approaches.
The Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) has made major advances in the molecular etiology of MDD, confirming that MDD is highly polygenic. Pathway enrichment results from PGC meta-analyses can also be used to help inform molecular drug targets. Prior to any knowledge of molecular biomarkers for MDD, drugs targeting molecular pathways (MPs) proved successful in treating MDD. It is possible that examining polygenicity within specific MPs implicated in MDD can further refine molecular drug targets.
Using a large case–control GWAS based on low-coverage whole genome sequencing (N = 10 640) in Han Chinese women, we derived polygenic risk scores (PRS) for MDD and for MDD specific to each of over 300 MPs previously shown to be relevant to psychiatric diagnoses. We then identified sets of PRSs, accounting for critical covariates, significantly predictive of case status.
Over and above global MDD polygenic risk, polygenic risk within the GO: 0017144 drug metabolism pathway significantly predicted recurrent depression after multiple testing correction. Secondary transcriptomic analysis suggests that among genes in this pathway, CYP2C19 (family of Cytochrome P450) and CBR1 (Carbonyl Reductase 1) might be most relevant to MDD. Within the cases, pathway-based risk was additionally associated with age at onset of MDD.
Results indicate that pathway-based risk might inform etiology of recurrent major depression. Future research should examine whether polygenicity of the drug metabolism gene pathway has any association with clinical presentation or treatment response. We discuss limitations to the generalizability of these preliminary findings, and urge replication in future research.
Identifying genetic relationships between complex traits in emerging adulthood can provide useful etiological insights into risk for psychopathology. College-age individuals are under-represented in genomic analyses thus far, and the majority of work has focused on the clinical disorder or cognitive abilities rather than normal-range behavioral outcomes.
This study examined a sample of emerging adults 18–22 years of age (N = 5947) to construct an atlas of polygenic risk for 33 traits predicting relevant phenotypic outcomes. Twenty-eight hypotheses were tested based on the previous literature on samples of European ancestry, and the availability of rich assessment data allowed for polygenic predictions across 55 psychological and medical phenotypes.
Polygenic risk for schizophrenia (SZ) in emerging adults predicted anxiety, depression, nicotine use, trauma, and family history of psychological disorders. Polygenic risk for neuroticism predicted anxiety, depression, phobia, panic, neuroticism, and was correlated with polygenic risk for cardiovascular disease.
These results demonstrate the extensive impact of genetic risk for SZ, neuroticism, and major depression on a range of health outcomes in early adulthood. Minimal cross-ancestry replication of these phenomic patterns of polygenic influence underscores the need for more genome-wide association studies of non-European populations.
Precision medicine in psychiatry is on the rise, and depression and obesity – two highly prevalent, comorbid and well-characterised phenotypes – are optimal targets for the approach. Add the bedrock susceptibility gene, FTO, and Riviera et al have identified a constellation of factors that could enhance clinical treatment of both disorders.
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